JERUSALEM (Dec. 15)
Religious Affairs Minister Aharon Abu-Hatzeiro, indicted on three counts of bribe-taking, asked the Knesset’s House Committee today to lift his immunity as a Knesset member so that he may face trial and clear himself of a “political blood libel” aimed at destroying his public career.
His hour-long emotional appearance before the committee has made it virtually certain that the members will vote overwhelmingly to deprive the 42-year-old Moroccan-born minister of his Knesset immunity as requested earlier by Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir. Abu-Hatzeira had refused to waive immunity voluntarily on grounds that it would be interpreted as a confession of guilt.
There had been some doubt last week as to whether a majority of the committee would support Zamir’s request. Although the indictment of Abu-Hatzeira was based on extensive police dosiers, committee members representing the religious factions contended that there was insufficient evidence to convict the minister.
Other committee members object to the fact that the chief prosecution witness is Yisrael Gottleib, a former associate of Abu-Hatzeira and a member of a rival faction of the National Religious Party. That lent credence to Abu-Hatzeira’s argument that he was the victim of a political vendetta.